NO NAME KEY, Fla. (AP) – The absence of electricity is what drew Hallett and Linda Douville to No Name Key in 1990.

They watched what development had done to Key West and figured No Name would be the last of the Florida Keys to fall. But as they were enjoying their sleepy island’s solitude, another group of residents was fighting for connection to the Keys’ main power grid.

Even though a judge dismissed a lawsuit that could have brought power to the island, its undercurrent is still fiercely felt four years later.

Residents of the island’s roughly 42 homes are divided between those who support grid electricity and those content with solar power and generators.

No Name Key has become symbolic of a larger fight over the seclusion of the old Keys versus the strip malls and traffic overrunning the islands today.

The Douvilles spend every night on their porch, watching wildlife roam their backyard. They fear grid power is a welcome mat for McMansions and manicured lawns.

“It’s a constant battle with new people that come in who want electricity to make them realize we’re out here for a reason,” said Linda Douville, a nursing administrator at a hospital on another island.

David Eaken’s family has been fighting for grid power on No Name Key for almost 40 years. Along with nearly 30 other residents, the Eakens sued Monroe County and City Electric Service, claiming they were being denied electricity.

The lawsuit was eventually dismissed in 2003 for lack of preparation, but not before plaintiffs sunk thousands of dollars into it and the dispute turned acrimonious.

“There were really, really huge fights over it. Everybody was suing everybody else,” Linda Douville said.

Still, it’s tough to be angry on No Name Key. Life is simple on the woodsy island about three-quarters of the way to Key West from the mainland.

Endangered key deer scamper about. The islanders are mostly retirees and part-time residents. One woman who refers to No Name Key as “clothing optional” ventures naked to her mailbox.

The island is filled with homes painted coral and blue-green, mailboxes shaped like sea creatures and screened-in porches for riding out buggy, muggy days.

Solar panels cover almost every roof, although many residents supplement them with generators. Those who use them say they can’t live without air-conditioning because bugs make the alternative – open windows – too itchy. Residents who shun the generators say they manage just fine without cooled air.

Grid power won’t necessarily bring development. It’s difficult to build here because 70 percent of the island – about 820 acres – is protected as part of the National Key Deer Refuge. Building is dicey on the remaining land because of zoning and conservation rules.

For years, No Name Key was the only way to Key West. The road stopped at Marathon, where cars were ferried about 12 miles to No Name Key before they could continue south.

The ferry was just a few hundred feet from Eaken’s home.

The 36-year-old marine biologist spends about $700 a month on diesel fuel to run his generator for air conditioning. He worries about the potential danger of storing vast amounts of fossil fuel.

Most months he and others produce more energy than they need. Because they are not connected to the power grid, they can’t sell it back.

If solar residents don’t want to be connected to the grid they can cut the line, but “give us the option,” he argues.

“There is no nobility in selfishly producing energy just for your house and standing back with a smug look on your face for two decades,” Eaken said.

But the island’s solar energy enthusiasts were outraged at the thought of their chunk of paradise getting hooked up to the grid.

Mick and Alicia Putney also moved to No Name Key hoping the lack of electricity would deter development.

Solar energy powers their two computers, printer, televisions, refrigerator and dishwasher. Mick Putney points proudly to a rusty generator in his workshop that hasn’t run in years.

The 78-year-old retired professor built the house in the early 1990s knowing he and his wife would go without air conditioning. The limestone walls of their living and dining rooms open to a large screened-in porch with an ocean view.

The ceiling fan isn’t running on a hot October afternoon, though Putney barely notices. A tiny cupola with eight windows atop the home draws out warm air.

“I don’t like what we’re doing to the planet,” he said. “At least in my own life I can try to do better and apart from that I just don’t like waste.”

AP-ES-11-10-07 0402EST

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.